In 2008, I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end, documenting the road and its built environment. Here is an installment of that trip report.

Shelby County was organized in 1821. Because so many early Shelby County settlers were said to be from Kentucky, the county was named after Kentucky’s first governor, Isaac Shelby, who was a General in the Revolutionary War. Early settlers cut farms and towns out of “an unbroken and almost impenetrable woodland.” It also appears that a road known locally as “The Old State Road,” made as early as 1821, went from the Ohio River at Lawrenceburg to Napoleon, then through Shelby County from southeast to northwest. Given that through human history we’ve preferred to use and improve existing roads rather than build new ones, it seems likely to me that once the Old State Road got to Napoleon, it followed what became the Michigan Road’s route to Shelby County. (It also seems likely that the Old State Road followed Napoleon’s Main St, State Road 229, which becomes State Road 48 just outside of town and leads directly to Lawrenceburg.)

Not quite a mile inside Shelby County on the Michigan Road, just past Middletown, lies a one-lane bridge on a one-lane former alignment of the road. It’s labeled E 425 South on the map.

The bridge on the newer alignment looks like the kind of concrete bridge the state was building between the late 1910s and the 1930s. So I wager that the new alignment was built about the time the state took control of the road in the 1920s to provide a two-lane bridge over this creek. For whatever reason, they decided it was better to realign the road than to widen the old road and build a new bridge. I thank them for that!

Stone bridge, one-lane alignment

Here’s what it looks like to drive over the bridge and along this alignment.

Several homes and at least one farm lie along this short segment.

Stone bridge, one-lane alignment

The rutted pavement over the bridge is heavily patched. It looks to me as though several layers of pavement have raised the bridge’s deck.

Stone bridge, one-lane alignment

Sadly, this bridge collapsed in 2015 and was removed. Read the story here.

This is the road northbound just past the bridge. This is a two-way road, so I suppose that oncoming cars drive slightly off the road to pass each other.

One-lane alignment

A bit north of the one-lane alignment, the Michigan Road meets State Road 244.

South of SR 244 stands St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, its parsonage, its school, and its cemetery. This is the church, which was established in 1836. I didn’t find a cornerstone that dated this building, but the church’s first building was built here in 1839. This was one of the earliest Catholic parishes in Indiana. Until 1846, there were no Catholic churches in Indianapolis, and so the priest from St. Vincent’s traveled to Indianapolis to serve the Catholics there. This page shows a photo of an earlier building here.

St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church

This school stands just south of the church.

St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School

This appears to be the church’s parsonage.

Parsonage, St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church

Behind the church, a cemetery stretches most of the way to I-74.

Cemetery, St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church

This building stands just north of SR 244. It appears to be somebody’s home today, but it probably wasn’t built to be a private residence. The plaque above the middle second-floor window says “1909 St. Vincent’s Hall,” which suggests this building was at one time connected with the church. Above the cornice it reads, “Y.M.I. Bauer No. 574,” whatever that means.

Y.M.I Bauer No. 574

The Skyline Drive-In with its one screen stands a bit north of SR 244. (In 2020, my wife and I got a tour of the Skyline; read about it here.)

Skyline Drive-In

Next: The Michigan Road in Shelbyville.

I’ve documented Indiana’s historic Michigan Road extensively. To read all about it, click here.


17 responses to “The Michigan Road in southeastern Shelby County, Indiana”

  1. J P Avatar

    I had no idea of the significance of that church in Shelby County. I love visiting old area churches and will have to go see that one.

    1. J P Avatar

      A quick look shows that the original church building was targeted by an unknown arsonist in the mid 1920s. The fire was generally believed to have been the work of the Ku Klux Klan, which was at its zenith in Indiana at that time. The Klan in this area targeted Catholics at least as intently as it targeted blacks.

      1. Dan Cluley Avatar
        Dan Cluley

        There seems to be a Catholic fraternal order called Young Men’s Institute, so I’m guessing that’s YMI

    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      If you go down, also stop in Shelbyville proper to see St. Joseph’s:

  2. John Jones Avatar
    John Jones

    Sad to say that picturesque barrel vault bridge was destroyed a while back without much fanfare. The narrow concrete bridge that you speak of was the center of many conversations early in my bus driving days with Trailways. The older drivers spoke of coming up on quite a few accidents and fires there back when it was heavily traveled.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That bridge had a major failure and it was decided not to try to save it, sadly.

  3. Cailín Rúnda Avatar
    Cailín Rúnda

    Y.M.I. stands for Young Men’s Institute, a Catholic fraternal organization. Founded in the 1880’s it’s a perfect chronological fit for that church. …

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks for filling in the blank!

  4. Cailín Rúnda Avatar
    Cailín Rúnda

    You’re welcome! …

  5. Penny Avatar

    We lived next to the bridge growing up. Great times fishing from it and swimming underneath it!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That’s terrific!

  6. John Avatar

    I walked many times in to the cemetery to read the headstones!!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I admit to doing the same on this visit!

  7. John Wheeler Avatar
    John Wheeler

    Nice church!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      And it’s essentially in the middle of nowhere!

  8. Tim King Avatar
    Tim King

    My wife graduated from the last sixth grade class held at St Vincent in 1971, no more schooling there afterwards. They had done away with seventh and eight grades by then and school only went to sixth,(previously first to eight), and then onto public school.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      A shame that it had to end.

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